Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book Review: The Herbalist's Garden

The Herbalist's Garden:
A Guided Tour Of 10 Exceptional Herb Gardens,

by Shatoiya and Richard de la Tour;
Storey Books;
229 pages;

The Herbalist's Garden ought to be approached on its own terms. It's not a practical book of gardening advice, but a words-and-pictures tour of 10 herb-filled gardens-primarily in California and New England, with B.C.'s Raven Hill Farm representing Canada-and profiles of the people who made them.

The gardens are rooted in their owners' love of herbs, and each displays originality and charm. All except one have a public side: visitors are welcomed, herbal products are made and sold, and courses are given. One, Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is an herbal pioneer village, with gardeners in period costumes demonstrating early-American and aboriginal use of herbs.

Herb gardeners (and I count myself among them) can be a bit dreamy and romantic. The authors of this book are no exception. Harkening back to an imagined bucolic past, they rhapsodize over aromatic plants harvested through the centuries “for use and delight.” Although the text sometimes strays into airy-fairy realms-find me an herb book that doesn't-sincerity shines through. The photos, on the other hand, are anything but fuzzy: clear and well composed, they show no signs of blurry impressionism.

At the end of a rough day's weeding, readers might not appreciate the “everything-is-perfect” tone. But come mid-winter, when hard realities fade to memories and most gardeners get dreamy all over again, this book takes us on an armchair tour so we can harvest ideas and inspiration from other people's gardens.
-Patrick Lima

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